Skip to main content

Do small white balls squeak? Pitch-object correspondences in young children

Abstract

Adults with auditory-visual synesthesia agree that higher pitched sounds induce smaller, brighter visual percepts. We have hypothesized that these correspondences are remnants of cross-modal neural connections that are present at birth and that influence the development of perception and language even in adults and children without synesthesia. In this study, we explored these correspondences in preschoolers (30-36 months; n=12 per experiment). The children were asked to indicate which of two bouncing balls was making a centrally located sound. The balls varied in size and/or surface darkness; the sound varied in pitch. The children reliably matched the higher pitched sound to a smaller and lighter (white) ball (Experiment 1), to a lighter (white) ball (Experiment 2), and in one of two groups, to a smaller ball (Experiment 3). Children’s matching of pitch and size cannot be attributed to intensity matching or to learning. These data support the hypothesis that some cross-modal correspondences may be remnants of the neural mechanisms underlying neonatal perception.

References

  • Aleman, A., Rutten, G. J., Sitskoorn, M. M., Dautzenberg, G., & Ramsey, N. F. (2001). Activation of striate cortex in the absence of visual stimulation: An fMRI study of synesthesia. NeuroReport, 12, 2827–2830.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baron-Cohen, S., Wyke, M., & Binnie, C. (1987). Hearing words and seeing colours: An experimental investigation of a case of synaesthesia. Perception, 16, 761–767.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cytowic, R. E. (1989). Synesthesia: A union of the senses. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cytowic, R. E. (2002). Synesthesia: A union of the senses (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gray, J., Williams, S., Nunn, J., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Possible implications of synaesthesia for the hard question of consciousness. In S. Baron-Cohen & J. Harrison (Eds.), Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings (pp. 173–181). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, J. E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Synaesthesia: An introduction. In S. Baron-Cohen & J. E. Harrison (Eds.), Synaesthesia (pp. 3–16). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E. (1974). On associations of light and sound: The mediation of brightness, pitch, and loudness. American Journal of Psychology, 87, 173–188.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E. (1975). On colored-hearing synesthesia: Cross-modal translations of sensory dimensions. Psychological Bulletin, 82, 303–331.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E. (1982). Bright sneezes and dark coughs, loud sunlight and soft moonlight. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 8, 177–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E. (1987). Auditory-visual interactions in speeded discrimination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 13, 384–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E. (1996). On perceptual metaphors. Metaphor & Symbolic Activity, 11, 39–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marks, L. E., Hammeal, R., & Bornstein, M. (1987). Perceiving similarity and comprehending metaphor. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 52 (Serial No. 215).

  • Maurer, D., & Mondloch, C. (1996). Synesthesia: A stage of normal infancy? In S. Masin (Ed.), Proceedings of the 12th meeting of the International Society for Psychophysics (pp. 107–112). Padua.

  • Maurer, D., & Mondloch, C. (in press). Neonatal synesthesia: A reevaluation. In L. Robertson & N. Sagiv (Eds.), Attention on synesthesia: Cognition, development and neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Melara, R. D. (1989). Dimensional interactions between color and pitch. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 15, 69–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nunn, J. A., Gregory, L. J., Brammer, M., Williams, S., Parslow, D., Morgan, M., Morris, R., Bullmore, E., Baron-Cohen, S., & Gray, J. (2002). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of synesthesia: Activation of V4/V8 by spoken words. Nature Neuroscience, 5, 371–375.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paulesu, E., Harrison, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Watson, J., Goldstein, L., Heather, J., Frackowiak, R., & Frith, C. (1995). The physiology of coloured-hearing: A PET activation study of colour-word synesthesia. Brain, 118, 661–676.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ramachandran, V. S., & Hubbard, E. M. (2001). Synaesthesia: A window into perception, thought and language. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 3–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, L. B., & Sera, M. D. (1992). A developmental analysis of the polar structure of dimensions. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 99–142.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stevens, S. S. (1957). On the psychophysical law. Psychological Review, 64, 153–181.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zelazo, P. D. (1996). Toward a characterization of minimal consciousness. New Ideas in Psychology, 14, 63–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catherine J. Mondloch.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mondloch, C.J., Maurer, D. Do small white balls squeak? Pitch-object correspondences in young children. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 4, 133–136 (2004). https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.4.2.133

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.4.2.133

Keywords

  • Bright Light
  • High Pitch
  • Visual Percept
  • Intensity Match
  • High Frequency Sound